TC women hold KCAC lead, win streak now 15

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Having emerged among the Top 10 in the latest NAIA Division II poll, the Tabor women’s team must feel more like ringneck pheasants on the opening day of hunting season.

Everybody wants to shoot down the high flying conference leaders.

Bethel College did its best to salvage an otherwise forgettable season Saturday night, but eventually lost to the Bluejays, 56-51.

“Bethel looked at the game with a little more desperation than we did because of where they’re at,” coach Rusty Allen said. “That causes these types of games to happen sometimes.

“The rivalry is for real.”

The score was tied seven during the first half.

Fortunately for the Bluejays, Donya Anderson continued her late-season surge, pouring in 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

“Donya had a big game and especially big first half,” Allen said. “We told her before the game we thought she could outrun her opponent and there was a stretch where she just outran them down the floor and that was huge for us.”

Anderson scored Tabor’s final 11 points of the half to stake the Bluejays to a 27-24 halftime lead.

Anderson made it 13 straight points by sinking a pair of free throws to open the second half. But Bethel stayed in the hunt, knotting the score at 29 with 18:04 remaining.

That’s when sophomore Nicole Ellis stepped up with three straight baskets in a two-minute span to put Tabor on top 35-31.

“Nicole had a huge stretch for us,” Allen said. “We went with a little bigger lineup and for a little while that helped our team settle in.”

Erica Hemmert’s field goal pushed the Bluejay lead to six points moments later, but the Threshers wouldn’t go away.

With Tabor on top 42-36, Bethel reeled off seven straight points to put the Threshers on top 43-42 with 12:49 remaining.

But Tabor answered with an 8-2 run to go back on top 50-45 at the 6:27 mark.

Allen said Bethel’s inspired play didn’t surprise him.

“They got really fired up, but I also think they’ve improved and you have to tip your hat to them,” he said. “When you watch the game, they played pretty well. They rebounded well, they defended well, they controlled the tempo. They’re an improved team.”

Bethel rallied for six straight points to take a one-point lead, 51-50, with 2:07 left. Thresher fans smelled a monumental upset.

But Tabor didn’t panic.

After Katie Fast hit a pair of free throws to put Tabor on top 52-51, the Bluejays turned in perhaps the hustle play of the year.

Jill Hein made a diving deflection of an entry pass by Bethel, knocking the basketball to the other end of the court.

Out of nowhere, Stacie Herman outran the Thresher player, dove to save the basketball to Shannon Kroeker. Kroeker then nailed a 6-foot baseline jumper with 1:41 remaining to put Tabor on top, 54-51.

“That was an unbelievable play,” Allen said. “First, Jill gave everything she had just to get that started and Stacie showed unbelievable heart on the play.”

Hemmert sealed the deal with a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left.

Anderson led the Bluejays with 16 points and nine rebounds while Hemmert added 10 points and nine rebounds.

Tabor hit only 20 of 57 shots (35 percent) from the field while Bethel was 19 of 47 (40 percent).

The tenacious Bluejay defense forced 22 Thresher turnovers while Tabor was guilty of just 12.

“We tried to create turnovers and we did that, but we just didn’t capitalize on them,” Allen said. “We couldn’t build off them to extend our lead.”

With their 15th straight victory, Tabor stayed atop the KCAC with a 13-1 record while improving to 20-4 overall.

McPherson-Tabor used its depth to beat McPherson, 83-67, Thursday at home

“McPherson is always a dangerous team,” coach Rusty Allen said. “But tonight I felt we handled their style a lot better than we did over there.”

The Bluejays bolted to a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest and extended the lead to 16-8 at the 13:49 mark on the shooting of Kelly Pavlik and Donya Anderson, who combined to score all 16 of Tabor’s points.

“Donya and Kelly were both hot early and knocked down the open looks they got offensively,” Allen said. “Donya had another nice game.”

The Bluejays led, 37-24, at halftime.

Allen said he was happy with how his team handled McPherson’s accelerated style of play.

“They play a style of defense where they take a lot of chances and try to create problems for you and they’re quick enough that if you’re not sharp, they’ll take advantage of you,” he said. “I thought we played with composure and handled that well.”

The first six minutes of the second half was a standoff, but McPherson cut the lead to 46-38 with 14:57 to play.

McPherson’s rally was built on 3-point shooting and frequent trips to the free throw line. After not making a single trip to the charity stripe in the opening 20 minutes, the Bulldogs canned 15 of 20 throws in the second half.

But a quick 8-1 run, sparked by four points from Erica Dechant, expanded Tabor’s lead to 56-39 barely three minutes later.

McPherson used long-range bombs to whittle the lead back to eight points, 60-52 with 8:41 remaining.

Allen said the Bulldog’s ability to hit the 3-point shot causes many teams-his included-to have defensive problems.

“They can really spread you out and cause you to lunge for them on penetration and that causes fouls,” he said.

“They had seven different players hit 3-point shots, which is incredible.”

In all, McPherson converted 11 of 29 3-point tries (38 percent).

Tabor proved its ability to hit from long range too when Jill Hein, Stacie Herman and Erica Dechant nailed consecutive 3-pointers.

Tabor eventually led by as many as 21 points. In the end, it was balanced scoring and good ball handling that preserved Tabor’s 14th straight win.

After turning the ball over 21 times in its Dec. 11 win at McPherson , Tabor committed only 12 in this contest while shredding the Bulldog full-court press for 19-for-33 shooting (58 percent) in the second half.

Tabor had five players score in double figures. Herman and Dechant scored 14 each, Anderson added 13 points and 13 rebounds, Erica Hemmert scored 12 and Hein 11.

Tabor won the battle of the boards 46-31 including 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 18 second chance points.

“This was a solid game for us,” Allen said.

With the win, Tabor maintained its one-game lead over Sterling College at 12-1 while improving to 19-4 overall. McPherson fell to 7-6 and 11-12.

Coming-Tabor travels to Salina on Thursday to battle Kansas Wesleyan, who enters the game 2-12 in conference play.

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